I’ve only lied once to get a job, and it was a total disaster. It was in 1999, and I was in the middle of a long period of unemployment. I was getting desperate for a job, so I started thinking about waiting tables. The only problem was that I didn’t have any table-waiting experience, and in New York, it’s pretty hard to leap right into a waiter job unless you have previous experience. I needed a job quick, though, so I asked Don to tell me everything he knew in the hopes that I could fake my way through an interview and figure out the waitering part on the job.
My first and only interview was at the Fashion Cafe in Times Square. The Fashion Cafe was a short-lived restaurant chain owned by Elle MacPherson, Claudia Schiffer, and Naomi Campbell. The tables in the restaurant were centered around a runway, down which models would walk while around them the restaurant’s patrons scarfed down chicken wings and hamburgers. It’s not hard to see the folly behind this business plan; if you are deciding what to eat while surrounded by skinny, gorgeous women, you are probably not going to order the porterhouse.
As soon as I walked into the Fashion Cafe, I knew my chances of getting a job were close to nil. The restaurant’s modeling theme apparently extended to the waitstaff. Waiters and waitresses in Manhattan are almost always attractive, but this waitstaff was culled from the master race. I didn’t stand a chance.
Before my interview, I had to fill out a 12 page application/questionnaire, filled with super intense questions about the intricacies of table-waiting. Things about what kind of wine goes with what kind of meat and how to slice a breadstick properly. I bluffed my way through the pop quiz as best I could and rose to leave. Before I could sneak out, though, the manager came over and sat down with me.
“Okay,” he said, “I see here that you’ve waited tables before.”
“Oh yes,” I said. “Two-tops and upselling and what not.”
“Right,” he said, giving me the hairy eyeball. “What is your best experience waiting tables?”
I’d prepared some fake answers to common questions ahead of time, but that one caught me completely off-guard. The only thing I could think to tell him was a story that had been told to me by one of my punk roommates in Ann Arbor.
“I was working at the Gandy Dancer in Ann Arbor,” I lied, “and a woman and two of her friends came in with their young kids. One of the woman’s friends pulled me aside at the beginning of the meal and told me that her friend had just gotten her divorce finalized and was feeling a little down, but if I showed her a little extra attention, they’d make sure to give me a big tip. So I laid on the charm, complimenting the woman at every turn.
“When it came time to order I asked the table if they had any questions. One of the kids, he was about six, asked me, ‘how big are your hot dogs?’ I said, ‘Oh, normal size, I guess … eight inches, maybe?’ So then the woman who I’d been flirting with turned to me and said, ‘No, really … how big is your hot dog?’”
A cold sweat trickled down my back as the last few words came out of my mouth. I had been so intent on remembering a story, any story, that I completely forgot this one had a highly inappropriate ending. The manager glanced around nervously, making sure he wasn’t alone should I have to be restrained. And I hadn’t even gotten to the punchline yet.
“And … um,” I continued, helplessly, “And I said, ‘well, I suppose it’s bun length.’”
The manager let out a deep sigh of disapproval.
“And what did you like about this experience?” he asked.
“Um …” I answered, “it made me feel important?”
“We’ll call you,” he said.
They never called.